This one has been in my head for a while now, and last night, inspiration finally struck. This, of course, is pure fiction, despite my use of a few real names.
In the spring of 1984, accounts of an unusual circumstance made their way from a rural New Jersey sheriff’s office to the desk of a NJ State Police lieutenant. Recognizing in some sense the significance of the situation in which he had found himself but uncertain as to how to proceed, the lieutenant phoned his captain, who dragged himself out of bed and drove to the police barracks of which he was in command—it was shortly after 3:30 in the morning.
Upon his arrival, the captain reviewed the documents that the Sheriff had personally driven to the barracks. Before dismissing the lieutenant for the night, the captain ordered him not to breathe a word about the situation to anyone indefinitely, adding that there was little chance he would ever be at liberty to speak freely of the contents of the Sheriff’s report. The captain gave no further explanation, and his subordinate didn’t dare ask for one.
When he was absolutely certain that the lieutenant had gone, the captain unlocked his own office and, after some hesitation, stepped inside.
He gazed at his desk. Against the moonless, pre-dawn gloom, that ancient piece of furniture cut a foreboding figure—given the circumstances of that morning, the sight sent a twinge of dread down the captain’s spine. Fighting off a shudder, he flicked on the light-switch, positioned himself behind the desk, and braced his legs against the office wall.
With great effort, the aging captain shoved the heavy oak desk forward two or three feet, revealing a recessed locking compartment built into the floor. Fearing for a moment that he had strained himself to the point of inducing a stroke, the captain fell back heavily into his office chair, where he struggled to regain control of his faculties. There he sat for several minutes, dazed, having entirely forgotten what he was doing and why.
Eventually, the captain’s eyes settled upon the locking compartment in the floor, and after wondering for a few seconds why someone would build such a thing, the events of the early morning returned to him at once and he again became conscious of the course of action that he was in the process of taking.
The captain, stunned by his sudden recollection, sat bolt upright, reached into his right pocket, and retrieved his key ring. As a police officer, it was necessary for the captain to carry a large number of different keys on his person whenever he was fulfilling the duties of his position. By consequence, he was forced to fumble around with his key ring whenever a specific key was needed—an amazingly frustrating limitation when time was in short supply. Eventually, the captain managed to locate the battered, worn-down scrap of steel which turned the hidden compartment’s lock. He separated the key from the other battered, worn-down scraps of steel, slowly knelt down beside the compartment, inserted it into the lock, turned it, and swung open the compartment’s small steel door.
The captain began to rifle through the stack of assorted records and documents which inhabited the hidden compartment. He sought a specific business card—one given to him some time ago by the office’s previous occupant. After digging around for maybe a minute, a partially-torn old card, discolored by time and at least one unidentified substance, fell to the floor from a stack of papers that the captain had been sorting through. He reached down, retrieved the sorry-looking business card from the floor, and began to examine it. The captain shuddered—that nagging anxiety which had lodged itself into the back of the old officer’s mind erupted at last, shooting frigid bolts of dread through his bones.
Struggling to maintain composure, the captain placed the card into his shirt pocket, returned the stack of papers to the compartment, swung the small steel door shut, and locked it. He then shoved his heavy desk back over the concealed compartment; however, this time, the captain moved slowly and carefully, seeking to inflict as little injury upon himself as possible in the process.
With the office restored to its natural state, the captain sat down behind his desk and took several deep breaths. Before him lay the Sheriff’s report, spread out open across a polished oak desktop. The captain—who, during his decades-long career with the New Jersey State Police, had maintained granite composure through more than a handful of situations which would have left most men sleepless for weeks—couldn’t even bring himself to glance at the document, let alone read the thing a second time. This was a man whose career and reputation was built upon his stoic demeanor, his wrought-iron nerve, and his ability to think rationally under extraordinary stress—this was a man who broke one early spring morning in 1984.
The captain removed the tattered business card from his shirt pocket and began nervously fiddling with it, turning it over and over again in his hand. The time was now nearly five o’clock in the morning. He began attempting to mentally psych himself up, to summon the courage he needed to begin the next step. The captain tried to force himself to remember his responsibility, his duty to do what must be done. Having rarely ever been afraid of much of anything before, the captain hadn’t the slightest notion of how one ought to face and overcome fear.
Then, an idea dawned upon him.
The captain stood up and walked over to his bookshelf. Behind a few of the books, he had made a habit of hiding a fifth of Maker’s Mark, and when the bottle got drank, it was promptly replaced. Just in case.
Fifth of whiskey in hand, the captain returned to his desk. He removed the cap and took a long, hard swig. A moment later, he chased his whiskey with more whiskey. Some semblance of courage began to surface within the captain’s mind. While dragging his desk phone from a remote corner of the desktop over to a more accessible, centrally-located spot, he took one last hearty hit from the bottle.
As he stared with mock resolve at the ancient business card, the captain finally began, with trembling hands, to dial the number which had been printed upon its ruddy surface so very long ago.
A short, sharp buzz rang from an intercom speaker on the DDO’s desk.
Two black suits stood before the desk, briefing the Deputy Director on one matter or another. He had arrived at Langley late that morning, having been detained at home by a mild hangover and a poorly-constructed alarm clock, and was now being caught up on the matters of the day.
The acronym “DDO” stood for “Deputy Director for Operations,” the man who, in those days, oversaw (among other things) the Agency’s clandestine service—its covert paramilitary branch.
Stanley Nelson had occupied this office for nearly three years. He was a meticulous, methodical man who dressed exceedingly well in spite of the Agency’s stringent sartorial regulations. Among the men who reported to him, Nelson was known as a fair and compassionate leader, but one who demanded no less from his subordinates than he gave himself—and he gave his all.
Nelson was a heavily-decorated veteran of the clandestine service. Having devoted nearly three decades of his life to American covert operations, few were surprised when—following then-DDO John McMahon’s promotion to Deputy Director of the CIA—Stanley Nelson was chosen to oversee the Agency’s paramilitary division.
Nelson was incredibly effective, and he had deservedly come to enjoy the full confidence of his superiors—especially that of the Director himself.
The intercom spoke:
“Sir, Mr. Casey is outside and would like to speak with you.”
The office fell silent.
After a moment of stunned hesitation, both black suits picked up their briefcases and prepared to make a hasty egress from the room. Nelson activated a switch on the intercom before speaking into it, struggling to suppress his surprise:
“Thank you, Barbara. I’ll be right there.”
Mr. William J. Casey was the Director of Central Intelligence.
Stanley Nelson, being the Deputy Director for Operations, was, of course, well-acquainted with the DCI by nature of his position; however, Mr. Casey had never once appeared outside Nelson’s office unannounced until that very moment. The Director generally avoided direct association with the clandestine service whenever possible—as one of the President’s closest advisors, few things were more important to the DCI than the maintenance of plausible deniability. However, when not operating in their official capacities, Nelson and Casey had been known to occasionally take brief golf-related excursions to coastal North Carolina, where the former owned a stately country-club home.
Nelson rose from his leather chair and stepped briskly around his desk toward the door, adjusting his tie compulsively as he walked. Anticipating news of some monumental misfortune, he inhaled deeply—taking care, however, not to betray any hint of anxiety to the two black suits, who reported directly to him.
The Deputy Director for Operations staunchly believed that a leader ought to conceal any feeling of apprehension or dread he might experience from his subordinates entirely; by consequence, Stanley Nelson worked throughout his career to project an impenetrable aura of confidence even at the worst of times, which helped inspire those under his command (and often his superiors, as well) to face and defeat incredible odds on more than one occasion.
Crossing his office with a dignified stride, he approached the door, grasped the knob, and prepared to greet one of the most powerful men in the world.
“Mr. Casey! How are you this morning? You know—I believe this is the first time you’ve graced my humble office with your presence in the three years I’ve occupied it.”
Nelson extended his hand. Bill Casey grinned and shook it firmly.
“Stan, how the hell are ya? You know—somebody a lot smarter than I am once said something about sarcasm being the lowest form of wit.”
“Sir, that’s one of several reasons why I work for you instead of trying my hand at stand-up comedy. Please—come in, come in!” Nelson said, ushering the Director from the doorway into his office.
Nelson continued, gesturing to the two black suits still standing in the center of the room, who the Director couldn’t recall ever having seen before:
“Mr. Casey, have you met Jim Callahan and Donny Greene? Two of the most reliable ops officers I’ve got. They were just bringing me up to speed on new developments, telling me something about how the latest reports suggest that the Russians”—he paused briefly for effect—”are bad, and that we really ought to start doing something about them—you know, since we’re spies and all.”
Casey chuckled and shook the two men’s hands, introducing himself only as “Bond.” The black suits laughed nervously while glancing at one another, each hoping that his counterpart would respond in an appropriate manner, so that he could emulate him and also act appropriately; however, neither had the slightest idea as to what would constitute a proper reaction to the Director’s jest, so several awkward seconds ensued.
The Director knew that his joke wasn’t especially funny, which was why he said it—when he found himself surrounded by unpleasant circumstances, Casey would occasionally blow off steam by making people feel uncomfortable: a pastime which he found endlessly amusing.
It has been said that, while presiding over a particularly dull and unproductive meeting with FBI brass, Casey once stood up without provocation, lowered his trousers, and, to the astonishment of every Bureau employee in the room, proceeded to urinate onto the conference table. When he was finished, the Director pulled his trousers back up, fastened his belt, and returned to his seat as though nothing had happened.
Some say that, after sitting back down, Casey turned indignantly to the FBI Director and asked her why she hadn’t begun to clean up “that awful mess” yet.
That, at least, is how the story goes.
Taking pity on his agents, Nelson dismissed them courteously, advising them (in the interests of making the men look good in front of the Director) to “continue the excellent work for which I’ve come to rely upon you.”
The door closed behind the black suits.
“Please, Bill, have a seat. Make yourself comfortable. After all, the building is yours—you don’t need my permission,” Nelson began politely, returning to his luxurious leather desk chair. “Can I offer you something to drink? A cigar, maybe?”
“Oh no—thanks Stan—I appreciate it, but I need to keep this short and sweet. You see, something has come up. Something fairly pressing, something that came directly to my desk this morning, but something that I’m going to have to distance myself from. If I hadn’t known you all of these years, I wouldn’t even be telling you that I’m aware of it at all.”
“Bill, with all due respect, we’ve long passed the point in our professional relationship where beating around the bush became unnecessary. You know I’ll handle it, whatever it may be. I believe my record serves as sufficient testimony to this end.”
“Of course, of course—otherwise, this office would be occupied by someone else. But, this—um—situation, though: it’s an unusual one. I don’t even know all of the details, and frankly, I don’t want to.”
“It’s that volatile? How did it ever reach your desk in the first place? It shouldn’t have: we have safeguards in place—extensive ones. Respectfully, sir: what the hell happened?”
“Stan, I really hate to do this to you, but I’m afraid that I can’t continue this conversation. If the wrong people were to hear this—Christ, I’ve already said enough to cut deep, if that were the case. In truth, I came by personally in order to stress the importance of discretion here—nothing more. I know you have a knack for that sort of thing—more so than anyone I’ve ever met—that’s why I’m putting my life in your hands here.
I’m sending Barron over to talk brass tacks within the hour—I’m certain you two have met. I trust him. From this point forward, Barron is the only man from my office with whom you are to discuss this case. As for your Directorate—I’d advise keeping this one small and close. Choose your men very carefully.”
“I always do.”
“And Stan, one last thing—I’m sure I don’t need to say this, but once I step out that door, this conversation never happened. Tell your two guys that we were making plans for a golf trip.
Should we find ourselves a year from now standing before a Senate tribunal, it will be you who ceases to exist, so don’t let this go anywhere. You’ll understand my concern after speaking with Barron.”
“I have faith in your judgment, Bill. I’ve owed it my life on more than one occasion.”
“Good to hear. That’s all, then. See this one through as you’ve always done.”
The Director promptly exited the room, closing the door behind him.
Nelson paused for a moment, weighing the gravity of what had just taken place.
He counted to sixty, then began to speak in a near-whisper:
“May seventeen, nineteen eighty-four; eleven twenty-two AM eastern standard time. Conversation between myself—Stanley Nelson, Deputy Director for Operations, Central Intelligence—and Mr. William Casey, Director, Central Intelligence.”
Nelson walked to his desk and sat down, deactivating the switch on his intercom. He fished his keys from his pocket, unlocked his desk drawer, and slid it open. Inside was a tape recorder. Nelson removed the cassette and slipped it into his breast pocket, replaced it with a fresh one, and shut the drawer.
Stanley Nelson poured himself a glass of bourbon and leaned back in his rich leather chair, waiting for Barron to arrive with nails to fasten shut the casket of the Director, Central Intelligence.
First draft, so it’s probably sloppy. I think it might be the beginning of something good, though. While I’ve used some real names for the time being, any and all characterization is purely fictitious. Unfortunately, I don’t think Bill Casey ever actually pissed on a conference table.